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Published: November 8th 2017
TAJIKISTAN with the Tajik Outlaws Part 2...On the Road Again.
Sometimes fear is your friend...sometimes your foe...but what is it really?
It's an illusion that can grip you by the throat.and lift you and toss you all about.
It can fool you like illusory mirrors...reflect only the unreal...or make you THUD to earth like an insect in a cocoon.
Or make you land with a SPLAT...on the road.
Sometimes stepping into the unknown can be like that.
Everyone has been saying, "Is it safe? Will you get shot? What happens to my case if you don't come back?"
"Why do you want to travel along the northern border of Afghanistan? What if you are kidnapped...or fall off the track?"
Well its my road trip not yours...leave all the whining for if I actually don't come back.
****** Departure Sunday 6 August 2017
'When ya gotta go, ya gotta go" is a universal term that all travellers know and dread when leaving on a roadtrip.
Some may call it "the trots" or more colloquial expressions to advise why we did not attend breakfast that day.
were on time for departure and some were not. Sleeping in is not a good excuse for late comers but was used never the less.
Our merry band met and what a disparate group we were...10 touristos ...3 drivers...1 local guide...and Shane The Travel Camel to hopefully keep us together.
3 Bulgarians (Naddya, Chavdar & Kalin), 2 Americans (Dangerous Dave & Merry Jo ), 2 Aussies (Denise & Dancing Dave), a German couple (one actually Austrian) and one Irish woman.
Our esteemed leader The Travel Camel (Aussie living In Kenya), local guide (Sherali) and our drivers Jengish (silver car), Kudash (red car) and Zamanbeck (the green Dancing Car).
And for the record we claimed we had the best driver...Mr Zee we called him...master boxer, wrestler, musician & drummer, bone thrower, horseman, driver, mechanic, general rock & roller...why the Dancing Car was the car playing the music and the vehicle the others tried unsuccessfully to climb into...as we boogied along. The long and winding road...and the Panj River that threatened to eat us
We headed south along paved highway to Dangara then east to the Shurabad Pass then suddenly confronted by solid peaks
The Guide & Drivers
Zamanbeck, Sherali, Talai 1, Jengish, Talai 2, Kudash
of rock over the Panj River...our first glimpse of Afghanistan.
We then followed the Panj River for a number of days as it spat and cursed us...inviting us to put a toe in...threatening to smash us into a pulp against the rocks if we dared to do so.
We were told the areas we travelled were too remote for the Taliban to operate. Yet there were reports they had tried to infiltrate Ishkashim so we didn't hang around there.
The secret of successful travel in remote or potential hotspots in our book is research ...reckoned we'd be fine 'cause knowing Shane as we do...knew he does more research than most.
"Happy and safe always"...is our motto.
Before the Shurabad Pass was the impressive Hulbuk Fort...a walled mosque with turrets now but in ancient times a fort. The turquoise dome quite magical.
Hulbuk is known as the hottest place in Tajikistan...lived up to it's reputation...hoping to head into altitude to get relief from the scalding heat.
Through tunnels through mountains opening to paved tarmac lined with sheer mountains of orange, green and grey...roads on the Afghani side cut into the rock walls or the
crease of mountains rising to the sky...massive scree slopes of boulders itching to rain down and make the road impassible. If was Spring that would be the case due to the effect of melting snows. But this is late Summer and only a month before there were landslides..the road only recently cleared to let Camel's group through!
The tarmac ends and the dirt roads on our Tajik side begin...traversing the Panj boiling, frothing, fighting...sometimes turning in on itself.
Then we rise...following high above or beside the river...then hugging sheer rock...the road cut into the cliff face...Mr Zee driving close to the edge to avoid rocks...MJ wincing...me tightening up...Dangerous Dave and Denise requesting we turn the music up.
'Cos we are the Dancing Car...with Mister Zee...Canned Heat's "Going up the Country" is what we're about...fear got no place in the back of our Cadillac (Toyota actually)!!!
Days later we met the Fraggles (Marie & Emma from New Zealand - Brave Travelbloggers of course) then saw some photos days later from their Italian companions. They were in a car when a semi-trailer in front of them jack-knifed on a mountain bend...cabin hanging over the abyss to nowhere...this shortly
AFTER we had driven through. Could have wrecked their trip but someone called in the Tajik army...dug into the cliff to make a passage just wide enough to let them through. Could have been us!!!
Note to me...Reminder to get the pics from our Italian friends.
We stop at Khalikum at our first homestay next to the river...only 3 rooms available so the 4 in The Dancing car bunk together on thin mattresses on the floor in one room...Naddya and Shane with their own rooms...Chavdar & Kalin chatting all night with the drivers in Russian then sleeping outside which was cooler than where we were.
The Germans and the Irish woman refusing "to share" or "not 5 star it" as one referred...so to a hotel in town for them...and a hint of their attitude to come.
But for those of us who stayed at the homestay...the generosity of our hosts...sharing with grace whatever they had...meal simple but generous...eating, drinking and laughing together...none of us complaining notwithstanding sore bones from sleeping on thin mattresses...on the floor or under the stars.
This is why we travel...to us this is heaven...even a western toilet for a bit of
luxury...a scoop to pour warm water over our bods to shower with...to us adequate, refreshing...and not at all bad.
I shut my eyes and let the mountain air refresh me...the sound of the river caress me...and smile.
We are here with the spirit of 'unconditional' adventure. And as the days passed...we knew who shared this spirit with us.
Relax & Enjoy,
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